Dress Up

For those of you who have been following me since the beginning, you probably have a sense of how much I love birthdays. I tend to go really over the top, planning days of celebration and adventures and splurging on the perfect princess dress. It’s been the same since I can remember, and I was always insistent I would never grow out of it.

But this year I decided to do things a bit differently.

My 26 was odd to say the least – I went through massive changes and when I compare this month last year to the present it’s almost unrecognizable. I’m living somewhere new, business is booming, I’ve travelled almost nonstop, lost so many friends and somehow gained even more. I’ve learned how to be happier single than I’ve ever been in my life, and, well, learned how to be single in general. Instead of throwing a massive party, dragging all my pals to a theme park or making an absurd dinner reservation, I decided to ring in 27 with a trip somewhere totally new, setting the stage for a fresh start and a year filled with even more exploration and forward momentum than the last.

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With almost no planning my good friend Dani and I somehow ended up on a plane to Cuba on the eve of my 27the birthday. We landed late at night, and the lack of streetlights made everything but the sticky heat impossible to decipher. We checked into Memories Jibocoa, our home for the weekend, and it suffices to say from that second on every moment following was pure pastel-tinted heaven.

I’ll be sharing so much more about Cuba, including my Havana city guide, resort details, scuba diving expeditions and more in the coming posts, but let’s get back to the birthday theme as that’s what this particular bit is all about. Instead of my usual princess plans, I spent my day exploring the bustling streets of Havana, sipping daiquiris at Hemingway’s favourite bar and swimming under the stars. Instead of splurging on tulle and sequins, I went for a timeless summer citrus dress from For Love and lemons and traded a sparkly clutch and disco platforms for a backpack and walkable mules.

What does it all mean?!?

Maybe I’m overanalyzing, but turning 27 not only looked different than all the years that came before, but felt different too. Though in a lot of ways I “had less”, namely a partner to shower me with attention, I found myself more content than I thought possible without a great love in my life. There was a lightness to my 27th birthday; less pressure, and for the first time in years no tears of disappointment or irrational arguments. I literally smiled all day long.

I’ve honestly been dreading turning 27 since my last birthday, resentful to find myself in my late 20s with no wedding in the works or family of my own on the way… I know, I know, I’m still young, but 27 was my goal age for starting a family and I’m *very* goal oriented! To my surprise, 27 may have been my absolute best birthday ever, despite looking different than I expected and I’m heading into this year happily single, full of inspiration and ready to push myself to only get better with age. If this is how growing up feels, maybe it isn’t so bad after all?

Scroll down to shop my look!

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I'll Follow You Anywhere

Though I’m from BC and generally considered more outdoorsy than most Toronto folk, I’m by no means an expert camper. Growing up we went “camping”, but for my high maintenance parents that always meant some form of glamping, usually in a massive RV with all the fixings.

Perhaps that’s why I am SO into Glamping Hub.

Have you ever wished there was an AirBNB for outdoor adventures? Meet Glamping Hub, the perfect place to find your next cabin or treehouse. This site is international, easy to use, and has SO many unreal alternative accommodations. From yurts and beach shacks to converted barns and luxury tents, there is seriously something unexpected for everyone, at any budget.

The longer I live in the city the more I crave getting out of the city and into nature, so I jumped at the chance to try out an Ontario glamping adventure of my own. After a lot of “shopping” around the site, I finally settled on the Tabins (tent cabins) at Grail Springs, a short 3 hour drive from Toronto. I brought my good friend Amanda from Blueberry Moon along, and with the help of Zipcar we zipped up to the retreat property for a few days of rest and relaxation.

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I’ll admit I initially wasn’t the bravest about all the bugs and the pitch black composting toilet down the path, but by day three I was so thankful for all of the fresh air and quiet. We went paddle boarding, spent as much time as possible in the various saunas and made magic potions to sip with tea and spices. Though this vegetarian retreat with yoga every morning wasn’t wildly different from my fairly healthy lifestyle at home, it was still the perfect opportunity to disconnect, and there was seriously no better sound than the rain falling on our tabin roof alongside the crackle of the fireplace.

Maybe I can get into this camping (well, glamping) thing after all!

Here’s a list of some essential items to bring along with you on your next glamping adventure!

Portable Nylon Fabric Camping Hammock
2-in-1 Camping Light and Ceiling Fan
Ban.do Super Chill Cooler Bag
Solar Powered Phone Charger for Iphone and Ipad

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I'll Follow You Anywhere

New York City is like a tattoo – one time in the chair, and you’re left only wanting more. There is way to much to do for just one sitting – it’s truly impossible even if you run all day, every day, from start to finish.

I used to pop down all the time – after all, NYC is so close to Toronto, and once I had tasted a nibble passing through on an overnight road trip at age 20, I wanted nothing more than to devour the entire apple. After a lifetime as a West Coast girl with no New York minutes under my belt, I started packing trips in whenever I could, each time leaving with a list of places I still hadn’t found the time to see.

It’s been a few years since my last NYC visit and I can’t really tell you why – I suppose my last relationship really halted my usual travel spontaneity, and though my ex and I had plans to hop a plane a few times, we just… never got there. For some reason coming back from California, New York was the first word on my lips: I suddenly just really, really needed to go. A couple friends happened to be down there already, so though I had just returned from LA and had yet to move my apartment from the old spot to the new, I booked a ticket. If not now, then when, right? I had put it off long enough already.

This trip to New York was unlike any of my previous adventures. For one, I stayed in Manhattan instead of Brooklyn, and though I loved the bustle I think Williamsburg is definitely a bit more my pace. I also somehow didn’t step foot on a train over all three days! Travelling above ground helped me fill out my internal map of the spaces I passed through, but it was strange to be in that particular city without taking any transit.

Because this trip was so different for me, the whole city seemed more foreign than ever before. It was so quick, and over far too soon! In short, there’s still a lot that was missed on my list, and a whole bunch of new spots piled up as I wandered new neighbourhoods, but not to worry… Johanna and I already have another trip booked for the beginning of April!

Scroll down to see my NYC #pastelhunting picks!

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Where to Eat + Drink //

Sel rose
Cafe Henrie
Pietro Nolita
Cha cha Matcha
Le Bain (better in SUMMER)
By Chloe
Sweets by chloe
While we were young
Lucky bee
Catch
Dirt Candy
Jack’s Wife Freda

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Where to stay //

Dream hotels
Standard hotel
Ace hotel

Where to Shop //

Mansur Gavriel Pop Up
Acne Studios
Chloe Soho
Miu Miu Soho
Matter
Apiece Apart
Catbird

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Where to Primp //

Paintbox nails
Lush spa
Drybar

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Still on my hit list //

Bisou
Pucker
Tacombi
Seamores
Snow Days
De Maria
Baker and Co.
Dudley’s
Orchard Grocery
Dovetail
Modern Love
Pizza Beach

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I'll Follow You Anywhere

An eccentric melting pot of French, Spanish, African and Caribbean cultures, New Orleans is unlike any place in the world. It modestly boasts a one-of-a-kind blend of architecture, food and language, and definitely has a way of making an impression.

The French Quarter mostly caters to tourists, but this doesn’t mean that you should avoid it. Bourbon Street is literally always a party, and great for people watching and some casual car-free debauchery. At night you can take in a ghost tour, and with the city’s dark past, it’s a must whether you believe in spooky behaviour or not. When it comes to hearing authentic jazz (the genre was born here) it’s actually unavoidable. Talented street performers of all ages are known to casually bust out a full brass ensemble, and you’ll have no choice but to stop in your tracks and take it all in. Other notable areas outside the Quarter (and you really should explore outside the Quarter) are Frenchmen Street, Bywater and the Garden District, all accessible by foot or adorable wooden streetcars.

A city famous for it’s libations, there are a TONNE of cocktail options in The Big Easy. Also, don’t forget that New Orleans is a magical place where you can openly carry drinks wherever you go. You can even pop into a bar and ask for a beverage in a “go cup” and be on your way. As for the food, expect simple southern dishes and lots of seafood. Famous for gumbo, jambalaya and beignets (delicious little powdered doughnuts), the diverse historical roots of the city are heavily reflected in the cuisine.

The people of New Orleans celebrate funerals with a brass band parade, and I think that’s the perfect representation of the spirit of the Crescent City. No matter what you choose to do here, whether you want to stay in the Quarter and party, or venture out to Tremé and see the road less travelled, you will be absolutely surrounded by the one thing that New Orleans serves up like no other – Southern hospitality.

Scroll down to see the full list!

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Sips //

Cane & Table
Latitude 29
Bacchanal Wine (Pick a bottle of wine and some fresh cheese, and head out to the backyard party)
The Spotted Cat
Tiki Tolteca
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop (The oldest operating bar in the US)
Apple Barrel
Compère Lapin
Three Muses

Snacks //

Atchafalaya (Truly incredible garden-fresh Bloody Marys)
Elizabeth’s
Killer Poboys
Stanley
El Libre
The Old Coffee Pot
Café Du Monde

Stay //

International House Hotel
The Old No. 77

For the next visit //

Green Goddess
Pizza Delicious
Kermit’s Tremé Mother in Law Lounge
The Country Club
Mimi’s In the Marigny
Algiers
Tremé

I'll Follow You Anywhere

When I first booked a trip to California with no concept of when I’d be back, I really didn’t have much of a plan. I had someone to stay with of course, and there were loose talks of visits with friends and family, but the truth is when I boarded that plane I had no idea where my travels would lead me.

In the end, no plans could’ve covered everything that I managed to see. I didn’t just go to California, I went all over California, from horse riding on the beach in Sonoma to driving through the Red Woods of Big Sur. I went to an 80s’ dance party that’s hidden inside a vending machine, I met some of my Instagram idols for a casual brunch, and I saw more parts of the state than most people who actually live there full time.

I was feeling pretty satisfied with my adventures by the time the last leg of my time in the sunshine rolled around, but then Kelsie came to visit and introduced me to the magic of Hotwire.com. Full disclosure: I am AWFUL at bargain hunting, but even I got into this site. You can basically play hotel roulette! We downloaded their app on a sleepy night in LA and before we knew it we’d scored a room at The Ace in DTLA for a night! It was the ultimate staycation, and after a night of dancing at a local disco bar (please go to Honeycut next time you’re in town!) we decided to try our hand at finding a few more hot rates.

We ended up booking a crazy spontaneous trip to San Diego, a city neither of us knew ANYTHING about, and in the morning we were off in our Hotwire car rental to find out what we’d been missing. It turns out the answer was a lot – so much in fact that one night was nowhere near enough. San Diego is lush, right on the water and filled with adorable local gems and swoon-worthy spaces. I wish we’d had more time to see everything on our list, but there’s always time to book another last-minute vacation with Hotwire, right?

Special thanks to @ellistracy for all the amazing local tips! Best Instagram tour guide ever!

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Where we went:

Pigment // Kelly from Studio DIY told me this is the best store in the world, so I went in with ridiculously high expectations, and I was still totally blown away. Just go, save up a lot of spending money, and go!
Communal Coffee // This is a coffee shop that sells floral drinks, floral toasts, and actual flowers! It’s incredibly well decorated, the staff is lovely, and the back patio may be actual nirvana.
Native Poppy // Nestled within communal coffee, this place knows their blooms! They also sell a curated collection of stationary etc.
La Puerta // A great spot for cheap margaritas and delicious guac in the heart of downtown. Make sure you time your visit around their numerous “happy hour” times.
Taco Surf // cheap, simple, and delicious. We highly recommend taking your food to the beach for a picnic, regardless of the weather.
Balboa Park // Perfect for a sunny stroll, this park has incredible flowering trees, an epic cactus garden, and SO many gorgeous museums.
Cafe Gratitude // One of my favourite vegan spots in California, this was actually the most gorgeous location I’ve visited yet, and the food was divine as always.
Seal Beach // We saw tiny baby seal pups lazing on the beach! This is reason enough to make this spot a stop in our books.

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For Next Time:
Fairweather
Pendry
Kindred
Ironside
The Madison
Bracero Cocina
Fleet Science Centre
San Diego Natural History Museum
Holy Matcha (not quite open yet!)

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Special thanks to Hotwire for making all of our spontaneous vacay dreams come true!